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At least 98 killed as powerful quake strikes tourist island of Lombok

More than 2,000 tourists are being helped to leave the island after the incident.

Updated Aug 6th 2018, 3:07 PM

Indonesia Earthquake Houses damaged by the earthquake in North Lombok. Source: Sidik Hutomo

RESCUERS HAVE BEEN sent out across the holiday island of Lombok to help evacuate more than 2,000 tourists today after a powerful earthquake killed at least 98 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

Security forces and emergency workers are racing to aid victims of a the 6.0-magnitude quake, as strong aftershocks sparked terror on the holiday island that suffered another deadly quake just a week ago.

Rescuers searched for survivors in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools that were among the thousands of buildings destroyed in the disaster that struck yesterday evening.

“The search and rescue team is still scouring the scene and evacuating (people),” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

We estimate the number of victims will rise.

A lack of heavy equipment and shattered roads were hampering efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of the island, which had been hardest hit.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning, which was later cancelled, and was also felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, one of Southeast Asia’s leading destinations, where tourists ran onto the streets as the tremor struck.

Some 900 tourists are now being evacuated from the tiny Gili Islands – three coral-fringed tropical islands a few kilometres off the northwest coast of the larger Lombok that are popular with backpackers and divers.

INDONESIA-GILI TRAWANGAN-LOMBOK ISLAND-EARTHQUAKE Visitors evacuate from Gili Trawangan near Lombok Island in Central Indonesia. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 percent of that region was damaged by the quake.

“We expect the number of fatalities to keep rising,” Nugroho said. “All victims who died are Indonesians.”

He said up to 20,000 people may have had to quit their homes on Lombok and paramedics, food and medication were badly needed.

The spokesman said search and rescue teams also rescued between 2,000 and 2,700 tourists from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Lombok.

Lombok, a volcanic island that towers over the flatter Gilis, bore the brunt of the quake, with the vast majority of deaths occurring there.

However, a local search and rescue official said there had been at least one fatality on the Gilis and several injuries.

Footage posted online by Nugroho showed hundreds crowded onto powder-white beaches desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise Gilis.

“We cannot evacuate all of them all at once because we don’t have enough capacity on the boats,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, told AFP, adding two navy vessels were on their way.

It’s understandable they want to leave the Gilis, they are panicking.

By early afternoon, hundreds of weary tourists had arrived with their baggage at Bangsal harbour, the main link between Lombok and the Gilis.

Margret Helgadottir, a holidaymaker from Iceland, described people screaming as the roof of her hotel on one of the islands collapsed.

“We just froze: thankfully we were outside,” she told AFP tearfully from a harbour in Lombok to where she had been evacuated.

Everything went black, it was terrible.

Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan, while another local woman died on nearby Bali.

Lombok 

Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims were treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city Mataram and other hard-hit parts of the island.

Patients lay on beds under makeshift wards sent up in tents, surrounded by drip stands and monitors, as doctors in blue scrubs attended to them.

“Many injured people are being treated outside of hospitals and health clinics because the buildings were damaged,” Nugroho said.

Most of the victims were in the mountainous north and east of the island, away from the main tourist spots and coastal districts in the south and west.

JON PAUL KENNEDY LOMBOK QUAKE Australian Jon-Paul Kennedy with his mother in Mataram, Indonesia. Source: AAP/PA Images

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80% of that region was damaged by the quake.

“We need heavy equipment because some mosques have collapsed and we suspect some worshippers are still trapped inside,” he told Metro TV.

In the latest quake, facilities at Lombok’s main airport were unaffected, although passengers were briefly evacuated from the main terminal.

Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who was in Lombok for a security conference when the earthquake struck, described on Facebook how his hotel room on the 10th floor shook violently.

“Walls cracked, it was quite impossible to stand up,” he said.

Bali’s international airport suffered damage to its terminal but the runway was unaffected and operations had returned to normal, disaster agency officials said.

Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

- © AFP, 2018

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